Book Review: The White Company

The White Company
The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Alleyne has had a sheltered up-bringing in a monastery, learning how to read and paint, but knowing very little about normal life in Medieval England. When he ventures out into the world as a young man, he finds a place as squire to the famous knight, Sir Nigel, the leader of the White Company, a band of English archers. They march to war with Spain, and Alleyne is determined to win glory, love, riches, and honor without losing the saintly virtues that the monks taught him as a child.

I loved the adventure, the action, the rousing dialogue, and knightly courage! The plot ran through all these unexpected turns that took me by surprise. Castles besieged, and pirates on the Channel, jousting tournaments that go haywire, and even that inevitable mysterious knight in black armor who refuses to tell his name until someone defeats him. And there were so many episodes of little everyday doings scattered in with the big chivalrous deeds that gave spice to the whole story!

The characters are all so noble and generous, and just like you would imagine medieval knights to be. Every character has their own funny quirks, and their own strengths and foolish weaknesses. There is such a wide stretch of people in this book, and yet it never felt like too much.

Alleyne befriends two of the archers in the White Company, and those three stick together through all the adventures of war. They joke around and share everything, and they are so hearty and laughing and brave.

Naturally, Alleyne falls in love and must prove himself to be worthy of the lady. I thought their romance was sweet and lovely, but also sort of tart and peppery since it’s all wrapped up in the adventure, and the lady is sassy and independent. I loved it!

The only bad points in this book are that the ending came a little too quickly, and needed some more denouement in the last scenes; and that there are many descriptive passages, well-written and beautifully vivid, but which could have been more concise.

I had to read the book with a dictionary and a French translator, since many of the words are archaic, and sometimes even the dictionary didn’t know the word because it was so archaic!! I loved learning the new words, though I will probably never use them.

Here are some you will need to know…
Solleret: a flexible steel shoe forming part of a medieval suit of armor
Banderole: a long narrow forked flag or streamer
Devoir: duty, responsibility
Camisado: an attack by night
Franklin: a medieval English landowner of free but not noble birth
Arbalest: a crossbow especially of medieval times
Venery: the art, act, or practice of hunting
Caitiff: cowardly, despicable
Tallage: an impost or due levied by a lord upon his tenants
Sicker: secure, safe; dependable (chiefly Scotland)
Rede : to give counsel to : advise
Wapentake: a subdivision of some English shires corresponding to a hundred
Kermis: an outdoor festival of the Low Countries
Sokeman (or socman): a man who is under the soke of another : a tenant by socage
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